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Sweden Politik - economic policy and the welfare state

by someone Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 09:25:43 AM EST

Time to drag up some articles from the Swedish press form a few weeks ago, that I found infuriating during this past weekend of much coughing and sneezing.

Svenska Dagbladet - Debatt - "Reinfeldts falskhet ett historiskt svek"
25 November, 2007
"Reinfeldt's dishonesty a historic betrayal"
November 25, 2007
Mona Sahlin till våldsamt angrepp mot statsministern: Han leder en regering som konsekvent och medvetet försöker vilseleda sina väljare. Mona Sahlin in a violent attack on the prime minister: He leads a government that is consistently and consciously trying to mislead its voters.

This is the beginning of the introductory paragrap (by the paper, Svenska Dagbladet) to a debate article by Mona Sahlin, the opposition leader. Sounds juicy, no? A violent attack by the opposition! Accusation of betrayal and outright lying to the voters? Where might this go?


Men aldrig tidigare har vi haft en regering som konsekvent och medvetet försökt vilseleda sina väljare och dölja sin egen politiska agenda för att vinna stöd. Det går inte i längden att säga en sak och sedan göra något annat. Förr eller senare genomskådas det. Väljarstödet sjunker och förtroendet för ledarskapet viker. But never before have we had a government which has so reliably and consciously tried to mislead its voters and hide its own political agenda to gain support. It will not be long time successful to say one thing and then do something else. Sooner or later people will see through it. The electoral support weakens and the trust in the leadership collapses.
Bensinskatten skulle sänkas, sedan höjdes den. Regelkrånglet för företagen skulle minska, sedan vittnade småföretagen om ökade regelbördor. Det skulle aldrig bli vård efter plånbok. Sedan ändrades lagen så att akutsjukhusen nu kan säljas och patienter med privata försäkringar kan gå före i vårdkön. Sent omsider lyftes vikten av klimatåtgärder i valrörelsen. Sedan drogs stöden till energieffektivisering och energirådgivning ner och hushållens konverteringsstöd till miljövänlig uppvärmning slopades. The gasoline tax was to be lowered, then it was raised. The regulatory burden on businesses was to be eased, but small businesses experience increased regulations. Health care was never to be apportioned according to ability to pay. But the law was changed to allow hospitals to be sold and patients with private insurance can get ahead in line for care. Late in the election process, climate issues were emphasized. But then the support for energy efficiency and energy advice was withdrawn, as well as the support for environmental conversion of household heating.
... ...
Reinfeldts regering påstår att fastighetsskatten har avskaffats. Men i stället har skatten döpts om och förändrats så att över 220 000 småhusägare får höjd skatt! Många vanliga hushåll i större städer får hela sin ekonomiska planering omkullkastad av den nya retroaktiva ränteskatten. Och allt detta för att de som äger de riktigt stora villorna i attraktiva områden ska tjäna tiotusentals kronor om året. En ekonomisk politik som dessutom leder till höjda räntor på bostadslånen, drabbar först och främst unga barnfamiljer med små ekonomiska marginaler. Reinfeldt's government claims that the property tax has been removed. But instead it has been renamed, so that 220000 owners of small houses pay more! Many ordinary households in larger cities gets their entire economic planning destroyed by the new retroactive rent-tax. And all of this so that the owners of very large houses in attractive areas can pay tens of thousands less each year. An economic politic that additionally causes higher interest on mortages, primarily hurts young families with children and small economic margins.
... ...
Reinfeldts regering påstår att "det är låginkomsttagarnas tur". Men i stället har 70 procent av budgeten riktats till de 30 procent som har högst inkomster. Reinfeldt's government claims that "it is time for low wage earners". But 70 percent of the budget is designated at the 30 percent with highest incomes.
Hur många låginkomsttagare tror regeringen känner sig som vinnare? Är det landets alla pensionärer med låga inkomster? Är det alla dem vars skattesänkningar genast åts upp av höjda avgifter för a-kassa och chockhöjda trafikförsäkringspremier? Ja, inte är det de arbetslösa och sjuka - deras sänkta ersättningar betalar i stället gåvorna till de riktigt välbeställda. Riksdagens utredningstjänst (Rut) visar med helt nya beräkningar att den skatt invånarna i de rikaste kommunerna Vellinge, Danderyd, Lidingö och Kungsbacka betalar sjunker med över 800 miljoner kronor under nästa år. Det är effekten av slopad förmögenhetsskatt och den nya orättvisa fastighetsskatten. How many low wage earners does the government believe feel themselves winners? Is it all of the retired people with low incomes? Is it all of those who's lower taxes were immediately counter balanced by higher fees for unemployment insurance and severely raised traffic insurance premiums? Well, it is not the unemployed or the sick - their lowered compensation pays for gifts to the very well off. Riksdagen's [the parliament's] Investigatory Service (Rut) shows with new calculations that the tax payed in the riches municipalities Vellinge, Danderyd, Lidingö and Kungsbacka, is 800 million SEK lower next year. That is the result of the removed wealth tax and the new, unfair property tax.
I valrörelsen påstod Fredrik Reinfeldt att det var lögn att hans parti ville sänka skattekvoten ner mot genomsnittlig europeisk nivå. Nyss stod han på moderatstämman och applåderade sin regering för att vara på god väg att göra just det. During the election campaign Fredrik Reinfeldt claimed it was a lie that he wanted to lower the tax burden towards average European values. But recently he applauded that just this is being achieved at a meeting of the Moderat party.
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Av regeringens finansplan kan man utläsa att 1 085 000 personer kommer att stå utan reguljär sysselsättning vid mandatperiodens slut. Var tog talet om att ge jobb till den miljon som stod utanför vägen? In the governments finance plan one can read that 1085000 persons will be out of work by the next election. Where did the rhetoric about finding work for the million without go?
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Men nu försitter den borgerliga regeringen chans efter chans att bygga framtida rättvisa, tillväxt och välfärd på just arbete. Styrkan i svensk ekonomi tas inte till vara, och nu ser konjunkturen redan ut att ha nått sin topp. Trots att regeringen själv ser att det hämmar produktiviteten så sparar man på utbildning. Trots att regeringen ser flaskhalsar i produktionen och accelererande arbetskraftsbrist så uteblir även denna form av krishantering. I stället för bristyrkesutbildning satsar regeringen på att få ut fler på en låglönemarknad med okvalificerade jobb konstruerade med hjälp av stora skatterabatter för de redan rika, i vad som elakt men träffande har kallats "överklassnära" tjänster. Regeringens bidrag till dessa kostar lika mycket som 26 000 nya högskoleplatser. But now the bourgeois government miss chance after chance to build future fairness, growth and welfare on work. The strength of the Swedish economy is not taken advatage off, and now the economy seems to have reached its peak. Despite the fact that the government itself sees that it reduces productivity, it saves on education. Though they see bottlenecks in production and accelerating lack of workers this crisis is not dealt with. Instead of education for sectors short on workers, the government puts efforts towards getting more people onto the low-wage market with unskilled work constructed with large tax rebates for the rich, in what has been meanly but correctly called "overclass-near" work. The governments subsidies to these cost as much as 26000 new higher education spots.

To me this seems like fair critique of the government's policies that have been to the advantage of the well-off and not so much for the rest. Something which has been noticed by voters, if the falling numbers of support for the governing coalition are any indication. This is the alliance of the right, lead by the Moderat party, claiming to be the "new workers party". Now I don't know how much one can really accuse the Alliance, or the Moderats, of having lied to the voters. It seemed pretty clear to me that their policies would favour the wealthy, and not the bulk of the population. Further, whatever advantages from job creation they might achieve through various subsidies for hiring would not significantly offset the harms wrought by lower unemployment and sickness compensations. What does seem true, however, is that the population bought the rhetoric of "the new workers party" and though that they too would benefit from lower property taxes, and that all the extra jobs would lift everyone up. However, on the balance, people feel less well off than they expected, and feel mislead, though enough information was available before the election to indicate what would be the result of the rightist policies of the Alliance. Certainly, abolishing the wealth-tax has never been to the benefit of the bulk of a population. And pro-business for rightists always mean pro-large-business. The small ones can as usual forget about any kind benefits. As for support for climate and environmental issues, are we really surprised where the rightists are on this?

Now, what kind of response did this "violent attack" find in the press? Mostly a lot of articles decrying her vicious attack. Head lines such as: "Sahlin's Fit" [Leading article, SydSvenskan], and articles taking issue with the language accusing the government of the "worst betrayal ever". But what about the policies? What about the advatages offered to the well-off and no on else? Their fact seem almost indisputable and discernable in popular opinion. So let's concede a point and attack elsewhere, seems the strategy:

Värsta språket - Sydsvenskan - Nyheter dygnet runt
Opinion: Per T Ohlsson
2 December, 2007
Worst Language - Sydsvenskan - Nyheter dygnet runt
Opinion: Per T Ohlsson
December 2, 2007
Ju högre man skriker, desto mindre har man att säga. Riktigheten i detta talesätt bekräftades förra söndagen av Mona Sahlin, socialdemokraternas partiordförande. På Dagens Nyheters debattsida gick hon till rasande angrepp mot den borgerliga regeringen. The louder one yells, the less on has to say. This adage was confirmed last Sunday by Mona Sahlin, the party leader of the Socialdemocrats. On the debate page of Dagens Nyheter she went to furious attack against the bourgeois government.
... ...
Statsminister Fredrik Reinfeldt (m) är hårt pressad efter en strid ström av skandaler och affärer. I en Sifoundersökning för några veckor sedan, publicerad i Göteborgs-Posten strax efter Ulrica Schenströms avgång som statssekreterare, uppgav 42 procent att de fått minskat förtroende för Reinfeldt. I DN-Synovates novembermätning har gapet mellan regeringen och oppositionen vuxit till 18,6 procentenheter.
Det vore närmast tjänstefel av en oppositionsledare att inte utnyttja läget för att - ännu ett talesätt - strö salt i såren.
Men Mona Sahlins ordval i DN var inte bara ilsket, det var också kategoriskt: "konsekvent", "aldrig", "historiskt", "helt unikt".
Vad hon hävdar är alltså att regeringen Reinfeldt står i en klass för sig när det gäller svikna löften, missvisande besked och taktiska manipulationer.
Sahlin verkar förtränga det förflutna. Och därmed kastar hon - återigen ett talesätt - sten i glashus.
Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (Moderat Party ) is pressed hard after a flood of scandals and affairs. In a poll by Sifo, a few weeks ago, published in Göteborgs-Posten soon after Ulrica Schenströms resignation, 42 percent said the had less trust for Reinfeldt. In DN-Synovates poll in November the gap between the government and the opposition has grown to 18.6 percentage points. It would be almost professional misconduct for an opposition leader not to use the opportunity to - yet another adage - salt the wounds. But the choice of words by Mona Sahlin in DN was not just angry, but also categorical: "consistently", "never", "completely unique". What she claims is that the government of Reinfeldt is in a class by its own when it comes to betrayed promises, misleading information, and tactical manipulations. Sahlin seems to be repressing the past. And thereby she - yet another adage - is throwning rocks in a glass house.

This piece deals almost exclusively with how Mona Sahlin's language was too mean, too categorical. It concedes in places that some of her critique of policies might be correct. But then we are taken for a long detour of betrayed promises of Social democratic governments past, so that we may appreciate how her extreme language is so wrong, and how the government is not the "worst ever". An emphasis on choice of words, politics, scandals and process, and a very light touch when it comes to the question of the results of the rightist policies being implemented in Sweden. The author of this piece concedes that there should be a vocal opposition, but that it has to limit itself in order to work with the other side on the really important challenges to the nation. And what might those challenges be?

Ett annat problem med Sahlins kategoriska och oförsonliga språkbruk är att det riskerar att omöjliggöra meningsfulla samtal och kontakter över blockgränsen.
Motsättningarna mellan blocken skall vara tydliga. Men Sverige står samtidigt inför väldiga utmaningar som kräver uthålliga och brett förankrade lösningar, precis som när det tidigare gällt skatter, pensioner och EU. En sådan utmaning lyfts fram i årets SNS-rapport från Välfärdsrådet.
Författarna, fyra ekonomer, framhåller att det inte finns någon motsättning mellan höga välfärdsambitioner och en framgångsrik globaliseringsstrategi. Men då måste trygghetssystem och skatter vara utformade så att de motverkar dels uppkomsten av ett låglöneproletariat bland globaliseringens förlorare, dels massflykt bland de välutbildade höginkomsttagare som är globaliseringens vinnare. Detta innebär, påpekar Välfärdsrådet, att en tung börda läggs på den medelklass som brukar avgöra valen.
Utan politiskt samförstånd kring de grundläggande frågorna om välfärdens finansiering är det som upplagt för enkla lösningar och populistisk exploatering.
Another problem with the categorical and irreconcilable use of language is that it risks to make impossible meaningful dialogue and contact between the political blocks. The difference between the blocks should be clear. But Sweden is facing enormous challenges that require endurable and wide solutions, just like earlier on taxes, pensions and the EU. A challenge like that is highlighted in this years SNS-rapport by Välfärdsrådet [the Welfare Council, a 'think tank']1.
The authors, four economists, claim that there is no opposition between large welfare ambitions and a successful globalisation. But then the welfare system and taxes must be shaped to avoid the creation of a low wage proletariat among the losers, and a mass-flight amongst the winners, the well-educated high-income groups. This means that a heavy burden must be placed on the middle-class which usually determines the outcome of elections.
Lacking political unity around the basic questions of the financing of the welfare state we are susceptible to easy solutions and populist exploitations.

So, in order to face the challenges to the nation, we must work together on, and have political consensus around, certain inevitable, inarguable financial and economic areas. The real unease around Sahlin's "fit" or "violent attack" seems to be that she might be suggesting disagreement with this standard neo-liberal fare. She makes of course no policy suggestions of her own here (the piece would have had to be quite a bit longer to allow for that...), something for which she is customerily upbraided elsewhere. But this hint, that maybe, maybe there is not political consensus on economic policy, that maybe in fact this could be a main area of opposition, is a scary one indeed. Yes, there should be vocal opposition, it is necessary for Democracy™, but it must never be allowed to become dangerous populism by critisizing the established economic Truth of neo-liberalism. I wonder what these "Welfare Council" people mentioned in the article are suggesting? And what does this "more pressure on the middle-class" mean? From their website, they seem to suggest the following picture:


Data from Statistiska Centralbyrån's database.
  • Globalisation allows for the easy movement of Capital, the well-educated, the rich, and jobs.
  • The jobs that are mobile include some that do in fact require advanced qualifications, i.e. engineers and programmers.
  • Some unskilled and other work does not move abroad easily. Service people, health care professional, etc.
  • The low-skilled but necessary people in local service jobs might have to be financially supported
  • The rich cannot be taxed more, because then they leave the country
  • Corporate taxes will have to be kept low to keep Sweden competitive
  • Taxes should be put on consumption and property, two immobile tax bases.
  • This will squeeze the middle class, but that is okay, they are kinda spoilt, and not very mobile.
  • The problem is, there are a lot of them, and they vote.

So, Capital and the rich need to be appeased, or they will pick up and leave. We must preserve this 'productive' segment and support them at any cost. This is not just a downside. They will require more services, which if properly subsidized, can be expanded. (Rich people could have a cook, a maid, a gardener and a butler, if we'd just let them pay reasonable wages! Think how efficient that would be!!) The middle class is no longer economically productive, and should be squeezed. How kind that someone points out above that we must "avoid the creation of a low wage proletariat". But, how much can one realistically 'squeeze' a middle class, with between 60% and 115% of the average in disposable income, and not in fact create a very large underclass?

Svenska Dagbladet to the rescue, in an article on the leading page:

SvD » Ledarsidan » Lösningen kan inte vara att plundra medelklassen
20 november 2007
SvD » The leading page » The solution cannot be to plunder the middleclass.
November 20, 2007
Borde staten dela ut gratis heroin till tunga narkomaner?
...
Should the state hand out free heroin to addicts?
...
För välfärdsstatens barn räcker det inte med gratis heroin. Det ska vara gratis ­heroin och leverans till dörren vid de ­lagstadgade fem veckorna semester. For the children of the welfare state it is not enough with free heroin. It must be free heroin delivered to the door during the five weeks of vacations enshrined in law.
Mycket vill ha mer, brukar det heta. Och det stämmer inte minst när det gäller välfärdssystemen. En liknande tendens identifierar Välfärdsrådet, en forskargrupp på uppdrag av Studieförbundet ­näringsliv och samhälle, i sin rapport Svensk välfärd och globala marknader. Ju rikare vi blir, desto högre krav ställer vi på välfärds­apparaten, konstaterar ­rådet. En följdfråga blir hur vi ska kunna finansiera den ­ständigt svällande välfärdssektorn i dessa tider av globalisering, när både skatte­betalare och jobb med enkelhet flyttar ­utomlands. God tillväxt räcker inte, för rikedomen leder till högre krav. Finansieringsmodellen bakom välfärdssystemet måste anpassas, menar man. Much wants more, as they say. And this is very true when it comes to the welfare system. A similar tendency is identified by Välfärdsrådet[the Welfare Council], a research group on behalf of Studieförbundet ­näringsliv och samhälle[Centre for Business and Policy Studies], in its report on Swedish welfare and global markets. The richer we become the higher demands we put on the welfare system, the conclude. A follow-up question of how to finance the continously growing welfare sector in these times of globalisation, when both tax payers and jobs easily move abroad. Good growth is not enough, because the riches leads to higher demands. The financing model behind the welfare system must be adapted.
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Lägre skatter för de fattiga, och lägre ­skatter för de rika, alltså. De som får ta ­notan blir, med författarnas ord, "medelklassen - som inte behöver några extra ­incitament för att arbeta och som har ­begränsade möjligheter att få jobb ­utomlands." Lower taxes for the poor, and lower taxes for the rich. The ones left to pay , in the words of the authors, are "the middleclass - who doesn't need an extra incitement to work and who has limited abilities to get work abroad."
Rapportförfattarna är dock inte ­dummare än att de ser de uppenbara ­politiska ­svårigheterna i detta. Den ­politiker som vill höja fastighetsskatt och matmoms för att lansera sänkt kapitalskatt blir inte långvarig i Sverige. Medelklassen väger tungt på valdagen. The authors are not so stupid as to not realize the political difficulties of their diagnosis. The politician who'd like to raise property taxes and VAT on food to finance lower taxes on capital wont last long in Sweden. The middleclass weighs heavily on election day.
Problemet tycks olösligt. Frågan blir då rimligen om man inte måste byta infallsvinkel i stället. ­Kanske är det ingen naturlag att välfärdsstaten till varje pris alltid måste ha samma omfattning? The problem seems intractable. The question is if one might reasonably have to change point of view. Maybe it is not a natural law that the welfare state must have the same extent at all times?
Vissa saker kanske ska vara avgiftsbelagda. Som leverans till dörren. Och vissa saker kanske staten inte alls ska tillhandahålla. Som heroin. För att bara ta ett exempel. Some things should perhaps be had only against a fee. Like delivery at the door. Like heroin. Just one example.

Yes, this atrocious piece appeared on the leading page of a major Swedish newspaper. It is unsigned, and thus represents the official editorial line of the paper. How kindly they explain that the middle class should not be plundered. They just have completely unrealistic demands on the welfare state, that's all. Like heroin addicts demanding free delivery of their drug to the door! Before the election, it was emphasized that no one questions the welfare state any more. Oh, no. Everyone likes it, no one dares to touch it. Now we find out that due to global challenges it might in fact not be affordable, unless its costs are shifted onto the middle class, and away from capital, business and the rich, since these might just pick up an leave. Since it is not politically feasible to squeeze the middle class, maybe we cannot have all that welfare. And lets be sure that articles about this are as offensive as could possibly be. Like addicts, the middle class must have their drug taken away, and be rehabilitated!

1
SNS - Studieförbundet Näringsliv och Samhälle
SNS - Centre for Business and Policy Studies

SNS is an independent network of leading decision makers from the private and public sectors who share a commitment to social and economic development in Sweden. Its aim is to improve the basis for rational decisions on major social and economic issues, by promoting social science research and stimulating public debate.

Display:
The shrillness of the right wing press reactions are interesting. The right wing and in particular the Moderat party ran last election almost to the left of the Soc.Dems. Using widespread disaffection of Persson, the ruling pm and using a narrative of overcoming differences between the parties on the right (creating "the Alliance) they won the election. It was a succesful electoral tactic but it also moved the Overton window. And this time to the left, in particular through the new worker party bit. The Moderat party has been the ones pulling to the right and now they stopped.

Now despite times of good economics and high employment, the polls are showing Soc.Dems on their own consistantly larger then the right bloc. Add the Left party and the Greens and you have a pretty safe mayority.

As opposition, eventually the Soc.Dems need to formulate policy. And they have nowhere to go but left. While popular amongst voters it is not among the priesthood of the established economic Truth of neo-liberalism. And they can also see which way the political logic points.

So in conclusion, what we are seeing is a preemptive attack to keep the Overton window from sliding left.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 11:24:59 AM EST
Excellent diary, Someone. It makes me wish that every Government would simultaneously increase taxes on the rich so that moving abroad wouldn't decrease their tax liabilities anymore.  Then the people who can afford to pay would be paying a fair rate rather than the middle classes who don't have quite enough disposable income to take the tax hikes. It's the same issue for all Governments needing to finance public services and welfare states.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 01:31:09 PM EST
I remember reading the article by Sahlin ("Reinfeldt's dishonesty a historic betrayal") and just feeling my jaw hitting the table.

Such a collection of absurd accusation without any kind of basis in reality, and of all people from that woman!

I was actually so pissed off I called a friend and ranted for almost half an hour. Just seeing the article again makes me feel sick in exactly the same way as when I read anything utterly absurd faith-based clap-trap from the Bush people.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 05:22:54 PM EST
By the way, one of the absurd results of the Swedish soc dem policies of the last quarter century - the richest 1 % control a greater share of the the total wealth in Sweden than in the USA! It's something like 40 % in Sweden compared to 30 % in the US.

This is because the policy has been to plunder the Swedish middle class, who is the the poorest in the western world, in spite of very good incomes (and share of the total wage incomes) while exempting the super rich from things like wealth tax, to keep them in the country.

This will create immense problems now that globalisation and the massive increase in the global labour force (not to mention the Anglo business press) are pushing hard against real wage increases and a greater share in income for ordinary people will have to come not from work but from capital.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 05:31:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you sure it is completely absurd? Not living in Sweden, it is harder to have a sense of what is going on there, but almost all of her factual assertions are ones that I have seen before. Wrt. property taxes and who benefits from their restructuring, for example. I really does seem that the present government has instituted policies primarily on behalf on the rich. Abolishing the wealth tax, etc. Plus, taxbreaks for servants for rich people just strikes me as the wrong, wrong thing to do. I am just too much of a lefty to in any way be comfortable about servants! If the spoilt overclass wants servants, they can damn well pay full tax on 'em. Yeah, sure, most of them will evade this tax and pay under the table, but better that than officially cutting them a deal in the tax code. Create more tax inspectors instead! But no subsidized maids for the overclass, damn it!
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 01:53:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eh, what both Starvid and Sahlin (aka "of all people ... that woman!") are engaging in is hyperbole. A politician of the opposition taking shots at the government? I'm shocked, shocked, I tell ya! Not.
It's clearly not a "historic betrayal" that Reinfeldt attempted putting lipstick on the pig that is the Moderate party; the SDP has been doing the same for many years.
It seems to me that the centre-right victory in last year's election can to a large extent be credited to Göran Persson-fatigue, and perhaps also a general sentiment that it's not a particularly good idea to have one party monopolising power for decades on end.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 05:06:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Using "I also want to change prime minister" as a main slogan does smack of both Göran Persson-fatigue and playng to the desire of changing ruling party once in a while.

As the blog I linked the picture from states, these buttons can now be reused by the opposition.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 05:22:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me comment on some of the retarded things she says.

First, talking about a "historic betrayal" is awful hyberbole. The closest thing I can think of when someone use that wording is the surrender of Sveaborg in 1808.

Calling the prime minister a traitor is dishonorable and doing it because he is carrying out the policies he was elected by a popular mandate to carry out is just retarded. It smacks of when Marita Ulvskog (current party secretary of the soc dems) called the right wing electoral victory in 1976 (the first in 40 years) a "coup d'etat".

It is agreed by all Swedish political commentators that the current government is closely carrying out the reforms it promised to do, mainly cutting taxes for low and medium earners and restoring full employment, and what everyone is puzzled by is that in spite of doing that the gov is impopular. I have my theories on that but I'll talk about that some other time.

Now, let me attack some of the things Sahlin says.

But never before have we had a government which has so reliably and consciously tried to mislead its voters and hide its own political agenda to gain support. It will not be long time successful to say one thing and then do something else.

This was the first thing that made my jaw hit the table. As I said, it is widely agreed that the gov is doing exactly what they told be people before the election that they would do if elected.

The gasoline tax was to be lowered, then it was raised.

Only the Christian democratic party, the smallest in the four party coalition, wanted a lower gasoline tax. And since when do the soc dems want lower gas taxes? Why didn't they lower them when in power then? This is if the greens suddenly sobered up and began supporing nuclear power, only to find me accusing them of an "historic betrayal". Now all seven Swedish parties want higher gas taxes. Does Sahlin consider this probably world unique situation a bad thing?

On top of that, she is lying. The gas tax wasn't increased. It was counted up at the pace of inflation. Not doing that would have been a tax cut in real terms.

The regulatory burden on businesses was to be eased, but small businesses experience increased regulations.

First, that's just not true. Second, Sahlin was the minister in charge of reducing bureacracy for small businesses for several years, without doing anything at all. Except increasing the regulatory burden. It's like Bush claiming the democrats aren't reliable on fiscal responsibility.

Health care was never to be apportioned according to ability to pay.
Nor is it like that today either. Except of course that the system where you can pay to cut the lines is still in operation. A system which was introduced by the soc dem government Sahlin was part off...

But the law was changed to allow hospitals to be sold and patients with private insurance can get ahead in line for care.

As I said, Sahlin and the soc dems introduced that system (or at least they didn't abolish it while in government for 12 years, I can't recall if they also introduced it). I don't like it, she does. I have no problems with private hospitals as long as they are tax funded and all patients are treated on an equal basis. Something we have had a long time in this country (for example St. Göran in Stockholm).

Late in the election process, climate issues were emphasized. But then the support for energy efficiency and energy advice was withdrawn, as well as the support for environmental conversion of household heating.

Having politicians meddle in the details of house heating usually results in disaster. For example, the soc dems introduced a subsidy system where you got state credits for changing from electric heating to oil fired heating. Now that's just brilliant. Did I mention Sahlin was in that government too? She has also been minister of energy, or something like that, during a period when Sweden hasn't had an energy policy.

That's actually a usual critcism against Sahlin. While she has held dozens of portfolios, she has actually not done any policy. At all. Ever. She used to be called "the minister of talking".

Reinfeldt's government claims that the property tax has been removed. But instead it has been renamed, so that 220000 owners of small houses pay more! Many ordinary households in larger cities gets their entire economic planning destroyed by the new retroactive rent-tax. And all of this so that the owners of very large houses in attractive areas can pay tens of thousands less each year.

I opposed changing the property tax. The reason that was done was partly to appease the Christian Democrats who have always hated it, and the people in general, who hate this tax more than anything else. It's also appeasing the hard right of the moderate party who have been sidelined by the "new workers party" moderates who have stepped far into soc dem territory.

I support the property (real estate) tax, and so does the old (hard right) moderate party chairman Ulf Adehlson.

And if they should have changed it, they shouldn't have done it in such a bungled way, backtracking and changing their minds all the time.

Reinfeldt's government claims that "it is time for low wage earners". But 70 percent of the budget is designated at the 30 percent with highest incomes.

I think she's plain lying here (it wouldn't be the first time), or cherry picking the data. Like looking at the budget where the wealth tax was cut and the real estate tax amended, while ignoring the budgets with big income tax cuts for low and mediuem wage earners.

During the election campaign Fredrik Reinfeldt claimed it was a lie that he wanted to lower the tax burden towards average European values. But recently he applauded that just this is being achieved at a meeting of the Moderat party.

This is an old soc dem chestnut from the campaign trail, where they used it for scare mongering, saying taxes would be cut by so and so many hundreds of billions. That's not true and it hasn't happened. If I recall correctly the tax pressure is down from 51 % of GDP to 49 %. A right wing revolution indeed. What's true is that taxes levels (as percent of GDP) should be heading in that (Euro average) direction, by a combination of lower income taxes and maintaned social expenses with a higher GDP.

Instead of education for sectors short on workers, the government puts efforts towards getting more people onto the low-wage market with unskilled work constructed with large tax rebates for the rich, in what has been meanly but correctly called "overclass-near" work.

This is a stupid policy to appease the hard right. It has been a fiasco, hardly used at all with very small cost to the state. On top of that, it's a part of the obsession with the service sector, shared by both the government and the soc dems.

So, in conclusion, she is not only insulting, lying and plain wrong, but also absolutely shameless. True Bush style. The soc dems are the republicans of Sweden.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 06:04:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Leaving aside the political infighting within Sweden, I think this diary contains a very good summary of the situation facing the European middle class generally.
Sweden Politik - economic policy and the welfare state

From their website, they seem to suggest the following picture:

  • Globalisation allows for the easy movement of Capital, the well-educated, the rich, and jobs.
  • The jobs that are mobile include some that do in fact require advanced qualifications, i.e. engineers and programmers.
  • Some unskilled and other work does not move abroad easily. Service people, health care professional, etc.
  • The low-skilled but necessary people in local service jobs might have to be financially supported
  • The rich cannot be taxed more, because then they leave the country
  • Corporate taxes will have to be kept low to keep Sweden competitive
  • Taxes should be put on consumption and property, two immobile tax bases.
  • This will squeeze the middle class, but that is okay, they are kinda spoilt, and not very mobile.
  • The problem is, there are a lot of them, and they vote.

So, Capital and the rich need to be appeased, or they will pick up and leave. We must preserve this 'productive' segment and support them at any cost. This is not just a downside. They will require more services, which if properly subsidized, can be expanded. (Rich people could have a cook, a maid, a gardener and a butler, if we'd just let them pay reasonable wages! Think how efficient that would be!!) The middle class is no longer economically productive, and should be squeezed. How kind that someone points out above that we must "avoid the creation of a low wage proletariat". But, how much can one realistically 'squeeze' a middle class, with between 60% and 115% of the average in disposable income, and not in fact create a very large underclass?

It's nearly midnight where I sit and I don't have the energy for it, but each of these points needs to be addressed. To what extent are they true, and if we don't like the conclusion, what action can possibly be taken and what are the likely consequences?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 06:40:35 PM EST


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